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FEB 2010 4

The change is here. Hover events come to mobile devices

Functionalities diagram of hover feature for mobile devices

I think that everyone knows that awesome YouTube movie about technology and how things that we learn today will become obsolete in 6 months or maximum 1 year. Well, when I published the hover behavior article just a few days ago, I certainly didn't think what I advised there will become obsolete so fast. I mean, I didn't see hover behavior coming to mobile devices this soon. Having this said, before going on with this article you should read the first article on hover events.

Apple has been granted a patent which has a mind blowing description, because it tackles proximity based systems and methods. What are those you may ask? Proximity methods are methods that a device can use to detect if there's an object placed in close proximity to its surface. Like a finger pointing above the iPhone's touch screen. Such method would also include performing an action if such an object is sensed.

Basically, this describes hovering events triggered by fingers, not just one finger. Apple has multitouch interfaces so why shouldn't they have a similar multihover event? At first hand, having such a feature in an iPhone, iPad or iPod would be great, because all the issues I described in the first article on this topic would disappear!

But would they?

No they don't! In fact, such a feature in mobile devices would only complicate the situation, because users could easily trigger lots of hover events simultaneously on a web page or web app. This has never been thought of and web developers have never taken this into consideration as PCs don't have multiple mouse pointers. This means there's no protection in websites against such worst case scenarios. Imagine a user viewing a drop down navigation menu that displays multiple menus in the same time. Imagine what their reaction would be, especially if the scenario happened by accidental hovering and the user would be taken by surprise. I also don't think that such a menu would be easy to use.

Description of features of a tablet device app

Such a new technology would technically fix the hovering issues of mobile devices, but would also trigger new ones, like the scenario described above, and would also give us power to create even greater interfaces by using multihover events. How cool would it be to point your finger to a product or pinch without touching the device to pop out details, and then click to buy it?

Here's a link to the patent (Granted Patent 7,653,883, originally filed in Q3 2005 by Steve Hotelling, Duncan Robert Kerr, Bas Ording, Jonathan Ive, Peter Kennedy, Anthony Fadell and Jeffrey Robbin).


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Further reading

Published on Tuesday, February 2nd, 2010 at 10:02 am in usability.

About Bogdan Pop

Bogdan Pop is a young Romanian entrepreneur who runs WebRaptor. He is a web developer with awesome design skills, who enjoys writing about everyday's work and usability. He relaxes by taking photos every once in a while and by mixing french electronic music. Connect with him via Twitter.
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